U.S. and U.K. eBay sellers may think they're saving a buck by using eBay's Global Shipping Program because all they have to do is ship international items to a domestic shipping center. Then a third-party company handles getting items to their international destinations.
But is this program as good as it sounds or could it be costing you more? We did a little digging to find out.
But first, what is GSP?
GSP is a partnership between eBay and Pitney Bowes, a commercial importer, that gives merchants an alternative international shipping option. It's meant to protect sellers, provide overseas tracking, and cover the cost of various duties and taxes international shipments can incur.
In many cases, international buyers are supposed to pay customs fees on their purchases, legally, but mail services find it's not worth the trouble to identify purchases among other packages that are shipped by post, says Alan French, aka aristotles_id on eBay forums.
How does it work?
Sellers mail their items to a U.S.- or U.K.-based Pitney Bowes shipping center. From there, Pitney Bowes is responsible for the package. Its staff handles delivery and can take apart and repackage a shipment before sending it out.
When shoppers buy a GSP item, they cover the GSP fees at checkout. These fees cover shipping, a Pitney Bowes service fee and customs taxes.
Some shoppers think those fees are too great. Some have even commented on our previous article on GSP that they will not buy from anyone using GSP, because, they say, the costs are unreasonable.
Some add that though GSP offers more security for sellers, other third-party insurers offer similar protection for less cost.
Who should use GSP?
Larry Seale of kariandlarrysales says eBay should explain GSP better, so merchants know if it makes sense for them. But he adds that sellers should question whether the "sell internationally, ship domestically" system is suited for them.
How? Start by reviewing eBay's policies and consider what you're selling. Ask yourself how much a package weighs, what its dimensions are and what the value of the item is.
With this information, you can look up shipping and insurance costs for the package through USPS, FedEx or UPS to see if you're better off using one of those services for your international shipment.
Once you have those figures, search for similar items on eBay listed under GSP to see what shoppers would pay at checkout for your products.
For example, five seasons of The Walking Dead DVD set ships from the U.S. to Canada by USPS First Class International for $15. The same set ships to Germany via USPS Priority International for $40. Another seller is shipping the same series via GSP, which means they will arrange shipment charges for U.S. delivery to Pitney Bowes, who will charge the buyer either $34 to get to Canada or $50 to Germany.
A 6-pound muffler for a Harley Davidson ships to Canada or Germany by USPS Priority International for $45. If shipped by GSP, it will cost $21 to Canada or $43 to Germany.
The Bissell AeroSwift Vacuum ships to Canada via UPS for $66 or to Germany using Standard International Shipping for $148. By using GSP, shipping through Pitney Bowes will cost about $26 to Canada or $46 to Germany.
The lesson here is that smaller items are typically better suited to USPS mail, but it takes a little research to decide where you should stand.
"At weights or declared values that can't be shipped USPS First Class International, it can sometimes save a buyer money," Seale notes. "The heavier the item, the more likely it will save money."
Are you in or out?
Eligible eBay listings are automatically enrolled in GSP, so sellers have to intentionally customize their preferences or opt out of the program.
To opt out altogether, go to your Shipping Preferences and click the "Show" link. Next, click the "Edit' link to the right of Offer the Global Shipping Program and select "Opt Out."
Sellers can also choose which countries they'll use GSP for or opt out of individual listings manually.
What do you think of eBay's GSP?
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Sarah Brown is a freelance writer who writes about e-commerce and small businesses. She recently graduated from Chico State with a journalism degree and is also a budding online entrepreneur, having launched two Web businesses and her own line of handmade products.
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